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Love and Ash: When Ash Wednesday and Valentines Day Meet

The Liturgical Church Calendar

In many churches, even protestant churches, there is a liturgical calendar that if followed provides a unity of worship. The calendar is filled with opportunities to worship and commemorate special moments in the Christian faith. Of course the big holidays are pillars in the liturgical year, but between Christmas and Easter there are historical commemorations that include Epiphany and Lent. Epiphany is a continuation of the celebration of the coming of our Savior at Christmas and Lent is a preparation for our commemoration of His sacrifice and resurrection at Easter.

Juxtaposing Holidays

Lent, which is characterized by fasting and prayer, begins each year on Ash Wednesday, which is scheduled 40 days before Resurrection Sunday. Ash Wednesday is the inauguration to the Lenten celebration that borrows from the story of Jesus' own fasting and pray as he was tempted in the wilderness.

This year (2024) the celebration of Lent begins on the same day as the US holiday of Valentines Day, making for a very strange juxtaposition. Ash Wednesday is a solemn day that reminds Christians of their frailty and sinfulness. It is a day that reminds us of our need to repent and look forward to the sacrifice that rescued us from the wrath of God. Valentines Day, on the other hand, is a prime example of a cheerful, and light holiday.

Exploring the Strange Pairing

Is there anything we can learn when seemingly opposite holidays are paired together? Can someone seriously celebrate both? I had a few thought that I got to share with my family at our annual valentines day dinner.

When we consider the serious nature of Ash Wednesday and acknowledging our sinfulness and our frailty, we are right to mourn and be solemn. There is a very serious nature to the sinful brokenness of our soul and the consequences that have led to death and judgement.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death....

However, Valentines Day give the Christian the opportunity to consider love. Though the love of valentines day is often superficial and seems to have little to do with anything true and beautiful, tracing the significance and foundation of true love leads us to consider the fountain of everlasting love.

It is the everlasting love of God that offers hope on Ash Wednesday and the joy that fills Valentines day ought finds its most perfect expression as we joyfully experience the everlasting love of our God. Love has never been more fully displayed than in the everlasting love of an eternal God, bestowed upon a sinful and broken people. We are not deserving of the love of God, and we are lost

Micah 7:18-19

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity

    and passing over transgression

    for the remnant of his inheritance?

He does not retain his anger forever,

    because he delights in steadfast love.

19 He will again have compassion on us;

    he will tread our iniquities underfoot.

You will cast all our sins

    into the depths of the sea.

In this we know that we are love, that though we were sinners, God sent His Son to die for us. We were not worthy of this type of love; we are enemies, destined for eternal wrath and willfully choosing to reject and leave. But God, in return, loved His enemy and made a way for hope in the heart of a fickle and fragile humanity.

Romans 5:6-8 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The lesson for us to learn is that we were never too far beyond the everlasting love of God and therefore we are offered a hope of life that will never falter or fail in Christ. In Him we have reason to rejoice and reason to love.

So then.... we love

When we can see the results of the Ash Wednesday and Valentines day mash-up, then we are more fully able to understand and participate in the love of God by loving one another. I have been encouraged to experience deeply the love of God and to live a life that patterns my love for others after the everlasting, patient, careful and faithful love of God.

1 John 4:7-11 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.


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